Melbourne Catholic - April 2016 - page 8

Every Friday afternoon in the kitchen at the
Wyndham Community Centre inWerribee
a group of parents sets about chopping,
peeling, frying, boiling and baking.They
are all refugees from Burma and part of
the CatholicCare cooking group. On this
particular day they are learning to make
tuna patties and many hands are joining
in to stir the mixture, mould it into flat,
palm-sized shapes and then coat them in
breadcrumbs before frying. In the adjacent
rooms, their children are busy chatting
away and doing their homework as part of
a support group also run by CatholicCare.
I introduce myself to one of the cooking group participants and ask for
her name—Ther Blay Paw—the syllables come out in quick succession
and my ears struggle to grasp any of them. I ask her to repeat herself
and I try to echo the unfamiliar sounds with careful consideration. She
nods in encouragement and adds, ‘Call me Lucy, it’s easier for you.’
Loo-see—these are sounds I can easily remember. Having come
to Australia four years ago, Ther Blay Paw, or Lucy, has learnt some
English but finds the language the most challenging part of living here.
Although she has given herself an English name to make it easier for
Australians like me to pronounce and remember, she herself must
learn the alien sounds of our language.
Ther Blay Paw and the rest of the members of the cooking group are
part of an ethnic minority in Burma called Karen. Tens of thousands of
Karen people have fled from their home because of civil war. ‘We have
to run all the time because of fighting,’ says Ther Blay Paw.
She speaks in simplified English, pausing mid-sentence to wade
through the foreign words in her mind to find the right fit. ‘In the cooking
class I learn many things. We cook the, how do you call it, s-salad? The
other day we make cake and salad and also the spaghetti.’
Rachel McLaren
Cooking up
skills in a new land
In my village, in my country, in my refugee camp,
we never see this kind of food. This is very new for me.
Continued overleaf ...
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